Tonawanda News

The Town

March 7, 2013

Workers turn on Tonawanda Coke in testimony

Current plant superintendent recounts misleading EPA inspectors


Tonawanda News — And although Kamholz didn’t directly instruct him to adjust the pressure, Cahill said without Kamholz’s comments, he wouldn’t have changed the settings on his own. 

During cross examination, Kamholz’s attorney, Rod Personius, attempted to drew on inconsistencies between Cahill’s statements Tuesday and his previous grand jury testimony about his walkthrough with Kamholz. 

“In at least one of the versions ... you’ve given us, you don’t make reference to the inspection at all,” Personius said, implying that Cahill’s recollection might be off. 

Personius then asked if Cahill could tell the jury “with confidence” that Kamholz referenced the EPA inspection while discussing the valve. 

“I would say that I can,” Cahill responded. 

After Cahill’s testimony, prosecutors called a former Tonawanda Coke employee, Peter Dolan, who worked as a foreman in the battery, where coal is burned to produce coke, a product used in the forging of steel.

Dolan recounted a 2007 company directive to increase the pressure in the coke ovens. But Dolan said he was taught by his superiors and other employees to lower the pressure before daily independent inspections were completed. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rocky Piaggione asked Dolan why they turned the pressure down before the inspections. 

“So we would pass,” Dolan responded. “We were only allowed a certain number of leaks daily. By lowering the back pressure, we were lowering the number of leaks.”

Dolan said the job of sealing the ovens and preventing emissions was “impossible” when the pressure was increased per the company directive. 

During cross examination, Personius asked Dolan if he turned the pressure down every day to make the job of sealing the ovens easier. Dolan said no, and his questioning wrapped up Wednesday afternoon. 

The trial, which opened last week, is expected to run for another month.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150

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